‘My baby is gone,’ father says after dog kills his toddler in West Mifflin
A father said Monday he was devastated when a family dog attacked and killed his 2-year-old girl in West Mifflin.
“My baby is gone,” the child’s father, Cory DeVaughn, told the Tribune-Review by phone.
Police said the toddler, identified by the medical examiner’s office as TayLynn DeVaughn of Forest Hills, was attacked by a family pet described as a pit bull mix. Allegheny County police said the incident happened about 8:45 p.m. Sunday in a home on Fleetwood Street in West Mifflin.
The girl was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:37 p.m., police said. The district attorney’s office will look into the case, police said.
DeVaughn told Trib news partner WPXI they were visiting his sister when the attack occurred. He said Sunday was the second time his daughter had been around the dog. He said he doesn’t blame anyone and that everyone is hurting right now.
“We know deep down inside, she’s looking down on us,” DeVaughn told WPXI. “She has a lot of people that love her a lot. People all over love my baby.”
The medical examiner’s office on Monday ruled the toddler’s cause of death as accidental from injuries to the head and neck caused by a dog.
“This is something you can’t prep for,” said West Mifflin animal control officer Ken Ferree. Ferree was called to the home Sunday night to secure the dog.
He said the dog is a 3- or 4-year-old pit bull mix that weighs about 80 pounds.
“It’s a good-size, powerful dog,” he said. “It fought me a bit … when we had to remove it.”
He used a catch-pole to handle the dog, which fought him again at the kennel.
“He wasn’t a cooperative dog,” Ferree said.
Neighbor Casey Tomlinson said he never saw the dog outside, only in the home’s windows.
“It’s sad. It’s tragic,” he said.
Ferree said he had never been called to the home before. He will keep the dog in his McKeesport kennel for a standard 10-day quarantine period. He said he is waiting to discuss the next step with local and county officials and the dog’s owners.
Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said it is too early for his office to comment on the incident.
In 2012, 2-day-old Howard Nicholson Jr. was mauled by a 19-month-old husky in McKeesport when the infant’s mother briefly left him in a car carrier on the floor.
In that case, the infant’s mother, Brandy Furlong, pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children and dog attack causing death. She was sentenced to six months of house arrest and up to five years of probation.
The dog was sentenced to a lifetime at an out-of-state animal sanctuary. It cannot be adopted by a private family or organization, and it cannot return to Pennsylvania. Prosecutors initially aimed to have the dog deemed dangerous and euthanize it, but attorneys for the dog argued it was not dangerous.
Jim Crosby, a canine aggression expert, was one of the experts called in the dog’s defense. He said he is aware of this case but has not been in contact with authorities.
“Any dog can bite,” he said. “Big dogs obviously make bigger holes than smaller dogs.”
A preliminary report from the National Canine Research Council lists 41 confirmed or potential dog bite-related fatalities in 2014. A breakdown by breed was not available from the council, but Crosby said “pit bull” is generally a description of appearance and can include a large variety of dogs.
“Saying that any particular dog’s appearance controls behavior is like saying something ridiculous like a person’s skin color or origin would determine their behavior,” he said. “We’ve hopefully learned not to make those assumptions with people. It’s not that different with dogs.”
He said that in his experience and research, most fatal dog attacks on children come from a lack of supervision of both the child and the dog.
“That is the biggest thread that goes through all (attacks),” he said. “Typically, there’s some sort of human failure involved when somebody gets hurt that badly. You need to figure out who, if anybody, is responsible, and hold them responsible.”
Megan Guza and Eric Slagle are staff writers for Trib Total Media.